Preventing Relapse

“Hi, my name is Ashley. I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with pride, control and anger.”

That’s how my Monday evening begins in our Celebrate Recovery Step Study. I’ve been on a recovery journey for ten years and ten years ago, the “struggles with” part looked completely different. I’m grateful for how far I’ve come as well as the decades of learning ahead.

We’re finishing a year of intensive recovery work next month and one of the questions last night really stood out to me and thought it would might be valuable to share my answers:

What are some of the other things that you do in your recovery to help you on your journey and prevent relapse?

  1. Relationship – genuine, authentic relationship. Without honest, rich and reciprocal relationship, I am confident I would not experience all of the tangible, real love of God. I am talking about 3 am people who will show up when your world falls apart, remind you of your purpose, stand by you on your wedding day, wave caution flags when you’re too close to the ledge, listen to your issues, then tell you kindly to get over them. People who laugh with you, cry with you, encourage you, respect you and speak the truth to you. I also think a genuine relationship with Jesus is life changing – not fake, religious, do what you think you should, but honest, vulnerable, do what you do because you know you’re loved. Authentic, genuine relationship is critical to helping us on our journey toward our best selves and to preventing relapse.
  2. Do something – get a passion, get a mission, get a hobby, get off your da-donk-a-donk and do something. Serve someone else, even though you’re the one who needs to be served. Help someone else, even though you’re the one who needs help. Give to someone, even though you need someone to give to you. Serving has unlocked destiny in my life and expedited my healing. In 2002, when I finally admitted that I had been raped, had bulimia, had an abortion, had some major emotional issues, you know what I learned? I wasn’t the only one. In fact, there were so many people with issues like mine (or seriously worse) that I realized I didn’t have to hide and I had a desire to help other people realize they could break the silence of their own lives and discover freedom previously thought impossible. Get your butt to a community outreach opportunity (our church has so many) and serve. Standing in a food line serving homeless people helps us realize we actually have plenty to be thankful for. When we start to reach, serve and lead people, we realize that we’re responsible for others; and that healthy, positive pressure enforces our strong choices, preventing relapse.
  3. Realize “I have a purpose and a destiny.” This thought shapes my dreams and wakes me up in the morning. It keeps me going when I want to give up. It fires me up to live a life that matters. If there’s breath in my lungs, I have a purpose and I have a destiny. “But Ashley, you don’t understand, I work at Starbucks (PF Changs, Admin Assistant for a law firm, Burger King).” So what? When I was wiping a four-year-old’s butt as a nanny, I had a purpose and destiny right there in that place and I had hope for the future coming my way. What you do is not who you are. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing right now, what matters is that you do it well and that you realize and know deep in your gut that you have a destiny and purpose. Dream big, and be faithful (right where you are). That will help us on our journey and prevent relapse.

My “struggles with” in this season – pride, control and anger – are relevant from now until eternity. All of these are subtle and easily masked for me and a daily inventory for my soul helps me from relapsing. I still make mistakes, still have to correct my attitudes, still have to determine not to be led by my emotions and when I get angry, I have to behave like a decent human being. Recovery’s not easy.

But I am incredibly thankful for the journey. Anyone else on the road with me?

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